« ZurückWeiter »
C EIAPT EIR XVIII.
MR. DOUGLAS DENOUNCES THE APPEAL OF THE INDEPENDENT DEMoCRATs—DEFENDS THE “PRINCIPLE” of HIs NEBRASKA BILL —AND ALLEGES THAT THE LEGISLATION OF 1850 SUPERSEDED THE MISSOURI RESTRICTION.—MR. CHASE DENIES THE DOCTRINE OF SUPERSEDURE—HIS SPEECH-ACTION OF THE SENATE ON THE QUESTION OF SUPERSEDURE—MR. CHASE SEEKS TO DISCovKR, BY IMPORTANT AMENDMENTS, THE REAL PRINCIPLE of THE BILL–ITs REAL PRINCIPLE DEVELOPED–THE Agria.TION IN THE NORTH-PASSAGE OF THE BILL-ANECDOTE OF ME. CHASE.
R. DOUGLAS came into the Senate on the morning of the 30th of January, laboring under much angry excitement. He had read the appeal of the Independent Democrats, and at once denounced both it and its authors with indignant bitterness. He stigmatized statements it contained as “base falsehoods.” He said material facts of history had been suppressed, and that other facts had been misstated and misrepresented. He called Chase and Sumner “abolition confederates in slander,” “pure, unmitigated, unadulterated abolitionists,” who wished a renewal of the slavery agitation, and who sought by this appeal to win “tender-footed Democrats” into the support of their “plot.” He branded the already-prevailing excitement as an “abolition tornado, which would again put the country in peril.” He elaborated his views upon the vital principle of the Nebraska Bill; it was that, he said, upon which rested the Compromise of 1850; “the great principle of selfgovernment; the right of the people to decide the question of their domestic institutions for themselves, subject only to such limitations and restrictions as are imposed by the Constitution of the United States.” He said that the object of the Compromise of 1850 was to establish certain great principles, applicable to all the unorganized territory of the country, which would avoid the slavery agitation for all time to come. He denied that that compromise was a mere temporary expedient, applicable only to Utah and New Mexico, which left the country entirely at sea in the future. If it was an expedient merely, then Webster, Clay and Cass had palmed upon the people an atrocious fraud. But he held that there had been, by the legislation of 1850, an express annulment of the Missouri Compromise, and that as to all unorganized Territories it was superseded by that legislation, and that Congress was bound to apply the principle it established in the organization of all existing Territories, and in all that might be acquired in future. “If this principle is right,” he said, “the bill is right. If the principle is wrong, the bill is wrong. ... The legal effect of the bill, if it be passed, is neither to legislate slavery into the Territories nor out of them, but to leave the people free to do as they please, under the provisions and subject to the limitations of the Constitution of the United States. And why,” he asked, “shall not this principle prevail? Why should any man, North or South, object to it?” He announced his intention to stand by it, not merely because he was bound to it by the Baltimore platform of 1852, but because of a higher and more solemn obligation, to which the Democracy stood pledged by the love and affection they bore to the great principle of free institutions, which lies at the basis of the Democratic creed, and gives to every political community the right to govern itself in obedience to the Constitution of the country. Mr. Chase said he reaffirmed every word and syllable in the appeal, distinctly and emphatically, and that at a future day he would demonstrate that the Missouri prohibition had not been repealed by the compromise measures of 1850; that not a single word had been uttered in the Senate-chamber, nor in the House of Representatives, indicating any idea or purpose, on the part of anybody, that those measures were to operate as a repeal, and “that when the Senator vouches the authority
MISSOURI COMPROMISE—REPEAL LEGISLATION. 151
of Clay and Webster to sustain him, he vouches authorities which would rebuke him, could those statesmen speak from their graves.” Mr. Sumner added that the language of the appeal was strong, but no stronger than the exigency required. The proposed measure, which reversed the time-honored policy of our fathers in the restriction of slavery, could not justly be described in common language. He denounced it as “a soulless, eyeless monster—horrid, unshapely and vast.” On the 3d of February Mr. Chase proceeded to vindicate the statements contained in the appeal. IIe declared the averment in the substitute reported by Mr. Douglas on the 23d of January, to the effect that the Missouri prohibition had been “superseded by the principles of the legislation of 1850, commonly called the compromise measures,” to be “untrue in fact and without foundation in history.” He moved—for that reason— to strike it out of the bill, and in support of his motion, reviewed the history both of the Missouri Compromise and the compromise measures of 1850. “When the measures of 1850 were before Congress,” he asked, “when the questions involved in them were discussed from day to day, from week to week, from month to month, in this Senate-chamber, who ever heard that the Missouri prohibition was to be superseded? What man, at what time, in what speech, ever suggested that the acts of that year were to affect the Missouri Compromise ?, The Senator from Illinois the other day invoked the authority of Henry Clay—that departed statesman, in respect to whom, whatever may be the differences of political opinion, none question that, among the great men of this country, he stood proudly eminent. Did he, in the report made by him as chairman of the Committee of Thirteen, or in any speech in support of the Compromise Acts, or in any conversation in the committee, or out of the committee, ever hint at this doctrine of supersedure? Did any supporter, or any opponent of the Compromise Acts, ever vindicate or condemn them upon the ground that the Missouri prohibition would be affected by them? Well, sir, the Compromise Acts were passed. They were denounced North and South. Did any defender of them at the South ever justify his support of them upon the ground that the South had obtained through them the repeal of the Missouri prohibition? Did any objector to them at the North ever suggest as a ground of condemnation that that prohibition was swept away by them : No, sir! No man, North or South, during the whole of the discussion of those acts here, or in that other discussion which followed their enactment throughout the country, ever intimated any such opinion.” He reviewed the history of the pending bill in its several phases, and said the doctrine of supersedure was no older than the 23d of January. He asked Mr. Mason, of Virginia, whether, at any time before that date, he had ever heard such a proposition stated or maintained by anybody anywhere? Mr. Mason remained silent. He appealed to General Cass, who had been one of the Committee of Thirteen which in 1850 had reported the compromise measures, whether in that committee or elsewhere, any syllable was uttered which indicated any purpose to apply the principles of those measures to any other Territories than those organized under them? General Cass remained silent also. Mr. Chase said, near the conclusion of his speech, that he had proved the averment he proposed to strike out of the bill, to be untrue. “Senators, will you unite in a statement which you know to be contradicted by the history of the country? Will you incorporate into a public statute an affirmation which is contradicted by every event which attended or followed the adoption of the Compromise Acts? Will you here, acting under your high responsibility as Senators of the States, assert as fact, by a solemn vote, that which the personal recollection of every Senator who was here during the discussion of those Compromise Acts disproves?” But if it must be done, he said, he wished to see it done openly and boldly, and not by indirection. “But who,” he asked, “who is responsible for this renewal of strife and controversy % Not we, for we have introduced no question of territorial slavery into Congress—not we, who are denounced as agitators and factionists. No, sir: the quietists and the finalists have become agitators; they who told us that all agitation was quieted, and that the resolutions of the political conventions had put a final period to the discussion of slavery. “This will not escape the observation of the country. It is SLAVERY that renews the strife. It is slavery that again wants
MISSOURI COMPROMISE LEGISLATION. 153
room. It is slavery, with its insatiate demands for more slave territory and more slave States.” Mr. Chase was two hours and a half in the delivery of this great argument, and so completely and overwhelmingly did he refute the doctrine of supersedure, that no Senator attempted either reply or defense. His amendment was rejected, however, by thirty to thirteen. But although the friends of repeal had voted down his amendment, they felt the averment in the bill to be too paltry for successful defense before the people. The inexorable necessity remained, nevertheless, that some adequate reason should be assigned for the abrogation of the prohibition. Mr. Douglas proposed to substitute a declaration that the Missouri act was inconsistent with the principles of the legislation of 1850, commonly called the compromise measures. This was a less hazardous and objectionable method of statement; although, according to Mr. Douglas, it conveyed the “express idea of the original words”—and simply “made it plainer.” Accordingly on the 7th of February that Senator introduced an amendment, which alleged that the Missouri prohibition, “being inconsistent with the principles of non-intervention by Congress with slavery in the Territories, as recognized by the legislation of 1850, commonly called the compromise measures, is hereby declared inoperative and void; it being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any Territory or State, or to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their own domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States.” This was adopted on the 15th of February, by thirty-five to ten; Mr. Chase remarking, however, that he did not regard this statement as any truer in fact than that for which it was a substitute. For his own part, he said, he would altogether prefer to see the measure stripped of excuses. But he called the attention of the Senate to a weightier matter. The alleged principle of the bill was, that the people of the Territory were to be left perfectly free to form and regulate their own domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States. It was of the first importance to ascertain what was meant by this phrase—“subject